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Liberals back away from Keystone XL opposition

Liberals seem to be tiring of their environmentalist comrades’ five-year fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. Increasingly, liberals with other priorities have come out in favor of building pipeline, blasting environmentalists for wasting their political capital on such a minor issue.

The State Department released its final assessment on Keystone, finding that the pipeline would not significantly impact the environment since Canadian oil sands would be extracted and brought to market even without the pipeline. Environmentalists blasted the State Department’s report, but their allies on the left and in the media are backing away from opposing Keystone, which will bring oil sands from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

“I’ve never really had a position on this pipeline, until now,” said MSNBC’s Ed Shultz, who pleaded for the pipeline to be built. “I know a lot of my viewers are surprised at my position on this … [and] I know my stance on the Keystone XL pipeline is going to make some liberals hot under the collar and attack me on Twitter — that’s fine.”

Schultz is the only host on the liberal MSNBC to come out for the pipeline. But he’s not the only liberal to do so this week. Earlier this week former Obama Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that Keystone should be built.

“At the end of the day, we are going to be consuming that oil,” Salazar said at an energy conference. “So is it better for us to get the oil from our good neighbor from the north, or to be bringing it from some place in the Middle East?”

The New Republic, a progressive publication, also chastised environmentalists for putting so much effort into fighting one pipeline when there are bigger environmental battles to fight, adding that weaning the public off of oil and other fossil fuels will take time.

“It is perhaps unsurprising that Obama’s efforts have proven unsatisfying to his environmental critics,” write The New Republic’s Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger. “Once you get beyond the self-satisfied comparisons to Dr. King and other civil rights legends, many Keystone opponents turn out to dismiss or outright oppose just about every proven strategy to reduce emissions, whether it is public investments in electric vehicles, replacing coal with natural gas, or building new nuclear power plants.”

The Washington Post editorial board also dinged environmentalists for their “symbolic war against a lone pipeline.”

“Environmentalists have drawn a line in the sand on the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s the wrong line in the wrong sand, far away from any realistic assessment of the merits — as yet another government analysis has confirmed,” writes the Post editorial board. “It’s past time for President Obama to set aside politics and resolve this bizarre distraction of an issue.”

President Obama has been dragging his feet on the Keystone XL decision for more than five years, waiting for the State Department to complete its lengthy review process. Last summer, Obama said he would only approve the pipeline if it didn’t significantly add to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions — which he argues cause global warming. The State Department has twice now found that Keystone would not significantly increase U.S. carbon emissions.

“[A]pproval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs and supply-demand scenarios,” says the State Department’s latest report.

Both Republicans and Democrats have urged President Obama to quickly approve the pipeline to help create jobs, boost the economy and increase U.S. energy security.

“I would swap Canada for Venezuela any day of the week and twice on Sunday,” said Georgia Democratic Rep. John Barrow in a Capitol Hill news conference with Republicans and 4 other congressional Democrats.

Unions have come out in favor of building the pipeline as well. AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor union federation, tepidly endorsed project last year. Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said he too would back Keystone, but only if it used American steel.

“I believe the oil transferred from Canada is going to make it to some final destination no matter what we do in the United States,” said Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers, who also backed the project. “I think the brothers and sisters in the building trades in the U.S. should have the jobs.”

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